• Gordon MacLellan

Dappled light and old trees

Ash trees, in spring, Buxton



Elegant branches

And wrinkled bark

Lifting tall skies,

Feathered with clouds,

While through fingered leaves,

Dappled light falls into

Whispering avenues.1

Quietly, insidiously, with spores carried by the wind, the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxinea is spreading across the UK, bringing Ash Dieback Disease to our ash trees. In Buxton in Derbyshire, the fungus reached the town about two years ago and we are now expecting to lose most of our Ash trees over the next year or two.

In response to this, a number of community groups have joined forces not so much to fight the disease but to raise awareness of the changing landscape of our town trees. Buxton Civic Association, Two Left Hands, Babbling Vagabonds, Buxton Museum and Art Gallery and ourselves, Stone and Water have been working on a project that aims to

  • raise awareness of the importance of ash (and other urban) trees

  • encourage people to find out more about the trees around them

  • encourage people to share their own tree experiences (we’re not expecting everything to be about ash trees!) – memories, photos, mapping significant local trees

  • to think for themselves, to reflect upon what those personal relationships with trees mean to themselves

  • to collect ash keys and to set up back-garden nurseries in the hope that we might harbour and protect a new generation of trees some of whom just might prove resistant

Ash Keys

Autumn’s Ash keys rattle,

Dry as bones,

As snake scales,

As lost promises.

Seeds fluttering into new hopes,

These trees are part of our history,

These trees are not a dumping ground,

These trees are sanctuary,

Are part of our story. 1

Find out more about Ash trees, here and Ash Dieback, here

Find out more about the Buxton Ashtrees project here

It was that sense of personal reflection, creativity and shared experience that attracted CelebrationEarth! to the project. Without coming from a faith or expressly spiritual perspective, we felt that combination of aspects was producing a celebratory project that drew together sorrow, reflection, creativity and hope

Inevitably, with this summer, the project plans have had to keep changing but over the last month, as quietly as a tree grows, ideas, artwork, glue, paint and phrases have been pooled, stirred and stuck, growing into some beautiful puppets and powerful words that tell the stories of the trees and the sense of peril approaching and of the people who have rediscovered their local woods during Lockdown. There will be more activities and events as the project develops. In the autumn there are plans for a Gathering of the Keys day which will link to advice on keeping, planting and nurturing a new generation of Ash saplings. the puppets and their poems have been filmed by OfftheFence and will feature in a CelebrationEarth! film shortly. We'll post details as soon as we have them

Tree Puppet filming in Grinlow Woods

We are the people

Who climbed the trees,

Who ate the picnics,

Who watched the birds,

Who fed the squirrels,

Who ran the paths,

Who were still in the shade,

Who sang,

Who built faerie doors

At faerie dens,

For faery tribes in

Faery glens. 2

Tall Tree Puppet waiting for a cue

We are the trees,

Where the spores settle,

Where the fungus spreads,

Where the fingers wither,

Where the bark splits,

Where branches break.

We are the trees holding onto hope

In seeds and seedlings,

In long breaths held and

Hearts clenched against the dread.

We are the trees who

Grow the keys of hope. 3

We are the people

Who walked,

Who wondered,

Who laughed,

Who talked,

Who held hands,

Who strolled,

Who held their hearts and loves and hopes

Under Ash trees.2


Poems are from three poems that have grown out of words and phrases contributed by many people!

1: The Ash Woods

2.: We are the people

3: We are the Trees



  • Ash Trees in Spring: c Peter Phillipson

  • Ash Keys: c. Sarah Males

  • All others, c. Aidan Rhode


with many thanks and much gratitude for all the enthusiasm, creativity, words, ideas, paint, glue and patience from Two Left Hands, the Buxton carnival teams, Stone and Water and the creative people of Buxton!

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